Culture Shock? “Manger” Is Always the Answer

I’ve almost been here for three weeks and I am still obsessed. The view from our home stay is spectacular. We live in the 19th arrondissements near the Buttes Chaumont and only a 20 minute walk to Pere Lachaise. At first the long metro ride to school intimidated me; but now I enjoy living away from all the tourists and commercialism of Paris centre. It’s wonderful to see real working Parisians doing the daily grind.

For me, culture shock has not really been this huge distaste for my host country. I still wake up every morning amazed by my view and pinch myself. Instead, culture shock has been more like a culmination of annoying complicated mishaps and frustrations that all add up until I want to bury my head in a hole and yell for a really long while… or indulge in large quantities of chocolate and wine. Either one.

This happened over the weekend excursion to Normandy. I was exhausted and hungry from the day. Unwarranted things were really starting to piss me off. I knew things were bad when I started to get extremely annoyed that the bus driver wasn’t quite sure where the hotel was. Normally, this would never bother me. It’s just life. But that day, it prompted me to begin watching the GPS over his shoulder just to make sure he was getting the turns correct and not just frustrating me on purpose.

When we arrived at the hotel, our room’s electricity wouldn’t turn on… Not. Okay. Sweet Pauline said, “Did you remember to put your card in the slot?” I love Pauline, but for some reason it was an extreme effort to nod my head politely. Inside my skull I told myself “Just. Keep. Breathing.” Thankfully Gabriel is amazing with technology and fixed the problem in record time. This was really important because I was no longer listening to that grumpy voice in my head and had stopped breathing completely. After they left, Claire and I sat on the bed and tried to turn on the television… to no avail. I almost cried. Aloud this time I said, “So this is culture shock. This is annoying. But this is France… Fine, let’s go eat.” A bottle of wine and some escargot later, the world was pink again.

Today marks my fourth weekend in Paris and there is a Wine Tasting Festival in Montmartre. I think this is going to be one of the coolest 48 hours I’ve had in a very long time. And it’s jam-packed.  It will most likely continue as follows: Start my dreaded devoirs, take a shower (this is actually a lot of work here… one day I’ll list out all of the idiosyncrasies that is Paris), visit Sacre Coeur, go to this super cool sounding Wine Festival, pop over to the Grand Palais for an all night concert of electronic music, thank goodness the metro opens at 5am because I’ll need to get home to sleep for a few hours, then a huge petit dejuner with some friends à l’hôtel Empire through a wonderful LivingSocial coupon. Only 17euro for all you can eat! For those of you who do not know about LivingSocial Paris I encourage you to sign up for le deal du jour. Afterward I’ll need to take a run because of all that food, and then finally it’s time to finish that silly homework. If all that’s not something to get over that stoopid culture shock, I don’t know what can. Gosh I love Paris. Bon appétit tout le monde!

Monique Malone
Paris, France
Fall 2011 

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